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The Columbia Gas companies trace their roots to 19th century Ohio. In 1837, the Cincinnati Gas and Electric Company was formed by an act of the Ohio General Assembly to provide manufactured gas to nearly 52,000 customers. In 1883, the company expanded by acquiring the assets in surrounding communities owned by the Ohio Fuel Supply Company. Demand for natural gas service increased dramatically, and the Columbia Corporation was formed in 1906 to construct a high pressure pipeline across the mountains from the gas fields in West Virginia, a distance of 185 miles. Two months later, the combined company was renamed the Columbia Gas & Electric Company.

During the next 25 years, the utilities industry expanded rapidly, and Columbia grew throughout the mid-Atlantic states by both building and acquiring companies. Congress responded to the growth of utility holding companies and their monopoly power by passing the Wheeler-Rayburn Bill, becoming known as the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935. Enforcement of the act resulted in the spin-off of several Columbia subsidiaries, including all those servicing electric customers. The remaining company was the largest natural gas utility in the eastern U.S.

Columbia continued its expansion throughout the rest of the century, building production and gas gathering pipeline systems in the Gulf of Mexico and in Appalachia. The two production regions were connected to storage and retail distribution companies located in seven northeastern states by high pressure gas transmission lines. All aspects of operations in West Virginia were integrated in a company named The United Fuel Gas Company.

In 1972, the company restructured itself along functional lines, with all subsidiaries taking the Columbia name. Management of the transmission pipeline system was headquartered in Charleston, under the name Columbia Gas Transmission Corporation. Appalachian production operations extending across nine states and two Canadian provinces were also headquartered in Charleston, and eventually known as Columbia Natural Resources. Retail distribution operations, known as Columbia Gas of West Virginia, were sold in 1983 to become the Mountaineer Gas Company.

Columbia was forced into bankruptcy in 1991, but emerged after reforming its gas supply contracts in 1995. The company grew dramatically to close the century as the second largest integrated gas utility in the nation. In 2000, a Merrillville, Indiana, utility known as NiSource acquired the common stock of Columbia. NiSource and Columbia were merged to form one of the largest utilities in the country. In 2003, NiSource sold Columbia Natural Resources to a group led by former CNR executives. Columbia Natural Resources was sold to Chesapeake Energy Corporation in 2005. Columbia Natural Resources and Columbia Gas Transmission are contributors to The West Virginia Encyclopedia.

This Article was written by W. Henry Harmon

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Sources

Dawson, Albert F. Columbia System: A History. New York: J. J. Little & Ives, 1938.

Cite This Article

Harmon, W. Henry "Columbia Energy Group." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 13 June 2011. Web. 17 January 2018.

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